The Mrs. The Mommy. The M.D.: Is Fast Food Linked to Free Will?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is Fast Food Linked to Free Will?

Photo Credit 
Today, it was announced that McDonald's would be the first major food chain to post the calories of their foods right on the menu. You can read more about it here. As a potential primary care physician, I am VERY interested in preventative medicine - i.e. making health conscious decisions to ward off illnesses prior to needing medical intervention for chronic disease. I think this is a great step towards helping to increase nutrition awareness and keep consumers moving in a healthier direction. However, I do have a few concerns. One of the comments made regarding the change was:  customers could now decide for themselves how many calories they want to consume in one meal - i.e. switching higher calorie items for lower calorie replacements.

First of all, let me say that I am well aware of the health and nutritional disparities of our country, and they are sickening. I know that all grocery stores are not created equal and I know that for some families eating at McDonald's is one of the only options due to its availability (most urban/rural areas won't have a Panera, Chipotle, Au Bon Pain, or Pinkberry, but they will have a McDonald's).  And also, due to its affordability (because, let's be honest, none of the previously mentioned restaurants have a price point similar to McDonald's). Even at McDonald's choosing some of the healthier items means spending more money and that is a HUGE problem. But when did we lose our free will when it comes to food? Why does McDonald's have to put calorie counts in our faces for us to choose milk over pop for our kids, or a grilled snack wrap over the fried for ourselves? 

Things that make you go hmmm... Photo Credit

And before you think I am on a soapbox as someone who doesn't eat McDonald's, let me stop you right there. I am a chronic McDonald's eater, sometimes it's all I have as an option during late night study binges. But just because McDonald's is my only option at times, that did not mean I couldn't change the way I ate it. For example, I traded Cinnamelts for Oatmeal (with the sugar) and occasionally, I will trade the oatmeal for just a Parfait. If it's lunch or dinner, I usually don't get anything bigger than a small fry. These steps were all painful but necessary, and trust me, I still have plenty of work to do in the "Eat Better" department...

I want to make healthier decisions so that I can be around for my kid (and future kids)...

I want to make healthier decisions so that my children will make good decisions about food and exercise...

I want to make healthier decisions because I want to look and feel my best!

It is possible that other restaurants will follow McDonald's lead, but even if they do not, it doesn't have to stop us from being informed consumers and health conscious eaters. As a future doc, I will continue to do my part by helping to counsel families on improving their eating habits and working towards owning their health despite the circumstances. We can all take small steps towards being healthy and it can make a bigger difference than you would think.

Here are some websites/apps that let you find calories on your own:

Calorie King
Eat This Not That
Lose It  (They have a cellphone app too)
My Fitness Pal (They have a  cell phone app too)

What do you think about McDonald's new change? How do you fight food temptation when you are choosing what to eat? 
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